Walking While Black

This morning after my usual high protein breakfast of black beans, salmon, salad and a bite of eggs, I set out on my 15 minute brisk walk.  (I started this routine after hearing Tim Ferris author of The 4 Hour Body.)

I don't like to be cold--except when I'm heat flashing-so I added a mid-thigh black suede coat to my ensemble.

I start walking.  I see a white family of three or four kids and two adults playing while waiting for the school bus.

Immediately, I feel weird.  I feel like a threat. I am Black, dark brown complected.  I have dread locks.   I am wearing a black coat that could conceal something bad.

This is not my neighborhood, not my state and not my home.  I am an outsider.  I am in a middle class neighborhood in Hamden, Ct.

No one in the family speaks and I keep my eyes forward so as not to offend or be offended.  I feel fear.

It is 8:25am.  I worry that someone will call the police about a suspicious Black woman walking.

As I walk, I wish I had chosen my lime green sweater.  It's cute and it seems to increase my innocence.

Black is dangerous.  It hides things.  I'm dangerous.  I could be hiding something.

These are the automatic thoughts that I notice myself thinking only after I pass another collection of white adults and children waiting for the school bus.  As I pass this group, a woman smiles and says "Good morning."  I respond "Good morning" and smile back.  A little.  I keep walking.

Going down a steep hill,  I realize I've internalized all of these messages about Black people, about myself as a threat.  I pick up speed.  There's nothing wrong with me, I insist, still worried about my black mid-thigh suede coat that a white friend had given to me.  You're going to be okay, I tell myself.  I search for a hair band to tie up my dreads.  No luck.

As I turn around to ascend the hill, I open the coat.  There, nobody will think I'm hiding a weapon.  I'm wearing a pink fitted sweater and olive cardigan underneath my jacket.  I am innocently female. (I know, #SayHerName, but I'm just doing what I can.)

As I huff and puff my way to the top of the hill, I feel a little relieved that all the families are gone. I don't feel like a threat.

I practice what I will say to the police:  I'm visiting my friend ________and her address is... I'm proud that I remember her address.  

I worry about my son, about black boys and men who walk outside their neighborhoods.   Threatening.  Suspicious.  (Trayvon Martin sits in the back of my consciousness.)  I worry that they don't have female innocence to draw on.  A cute lime green sweater or a fitted pink top to cue the outside world that they are not a threat.  (Of course that did not save Sandra Bland.)

I am facing traffic.  Cars come at me.  There's no sidewalk here.  People who walk are unexpected. Will the dark coat could hide me from a careless, momentarily distracted driver?

I arrive home.

I go to the guest bedroom.

I meditate.

I write.

This is what it's like to "Walk while Black."

Peace and love,
Amanda

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